By Skip Charles in Vegas
The 2023 NFL season has officially ended.
And so did Super Bowl 58.
Which seemed to go on forever!
The Kansas City Chiefs are repeat Super Bowl champions, and it took nearly every second of the NFL’s second-ever overtime.
The Chiefs are a dynasty under head coach Andy Reid and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
In five quarters, Kansas City outdueled the NFC’s No. 1-seeded 49ers two weeks after dispatching the AFC’s top-seeded Ravens.
Defense featured heavily early in this year’s season finale, with two drives ending in fumbles in the first half and the second half opening with Mahomes’ first postseason interception since the team’s 2021 AFC championship game loss to the Bengals. Both teams were able to shrug off the slow start of a 13-point first half by turning it on for a back-and-forth 25-point second half.
And we got to witness the league’s new playoff overtime rules, which were changed following a shootout playoff game between the Chiefs and Bills. After a back-and-forth divisional-round matchup in 2021, the Chiefs drove down the field on the first overtime possession, scoring a touchdown and ending the game to prevent the Bills from touching the ball. The new rules allow for each team to possess the ball once, regardless of whether or not the first team scores a touchdown. The Chiefs would not need the benefit of that rule tonight, though, stopping the 49ers on the 5-yard line and forcing a field goal before driving down the field for the game-winning touchdown.
Despite the seeming dominance of the back-to-back Super Bowl champions, this was a year of overcoming in Kansas City. Earning the AFC’s No. 3 seed after finishing with an 11-6 record, the Chiefs sputtered through an uneven regular season — one that started with star defensive tackle Chris Jones staging a holdout in search of a new contract. The veteran defender went as far as to sit out the team’s season opener, a loss to the Lions. Less than a week later, the Chiefs rewarded Jones with a reworked deal, keeping him in place for the 2023 season. The team also had to overcome what seemed to be a drop off in receiving talent as the Chiefs led the league with 44 total dropped passes.
Kansas City also saw a number of key contributors from their previous Super Bowl run depart in the offseason.
Starting tackles Andrew Wylie and Orlando Brown Jr.. would depart in free agency, as would key wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman.
New tackles Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith would hit some bumps early on in the road but would eventually become the anchors of a Super Bowl-winning offensive line that faced off against one of the NFL’s most talent-laden defensive lines. Key rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice filled some holes in the offense nicely en route to earning a few Offensive Rookie of the Year votes, and Hardman found his way back in a trade.
The 49ers played their game plan, utilizing quarterback Brock Purdy to spread the ball out to their best playmakers. Star running back Christian McCaffrey accounted for 160 yards and a touchdown while wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel drew a healthy share of targets, as well. Jauan Jennings, usually playing in the shadow of Aiyuk and Samuel, got to steal to spotlight for a stretch, catching Purdy’s only touchdown pass and throwing one of his own in a trick play to McCaffrey.
Special teams played a crucial role in the NFL’s biggest of game of the year, showcasing how important it is to be efficient in all three phases of the game. Tonight saw the same record broken twice as rookie 49ers kicker Jake Moody opened up the scoring with a 55-yard field goal, the longest ever in a Super Bowl. He would hold that claim for only a short time, though, as Harrison Butker broke Moody’s record with a 57-yarder with five minutes to go in the third quarter. In addition to those big legs, the 49ers saw former Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley make two big plays on punt coverage, pinning his former team on the two-yard line once and making a big tackle on another. The Chiefs would get their own big plays, recovering a punt that would hit the leg of a 49ers blocker for a turnover and blocking an extra point that would ultimately help them to tie the game and win in overtime.
In the end, we saw a game for the record books. By the game clock, Super 58 was the longest in NFL history, using all but three seconds of the first overtime period. We saw Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo become the NFL’s first ever offensive or defensive coordinator to win four Super Bowls. We also saw the Chiefs become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots did it in the ’03 and ’04 seasons. And, we saw Kansas City appear in its fourth Super Bowl in five seasons and win its third of those four. Those accomplishments, paired with eight straight AFC West titles and six straight appearances in the AFC Championship Game, have solidified this era of Chiefs football as a dynasty.
Though little doubt existed, Mahomes earned MVP honors — his third such achivement. Despite a slow start and early struggles, Mahomes would complete 74 percent of his pass attempts for 333 yards and two touchdowns. He also led his team in rushing with 66 yards on nine dashes. After losing Tyreek Hill, Smith-Schuster and other trusty targets, Mahomes has continued to lead his team to the league’s greatest heights. Make no mistake, football is a team sport, and the Chiefs have many great players, but it almost always takes a top-tier quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Mahomes has made it clear: he is that man.